Heel pain is probably the No. 1 most common symptom we treat here at Carmel Foot Specialists. And although heel pain can be caused by a wide variety of conditions, the most common diagnosis—by a wide margin—is plantar fasciitis.
Without prompt care, this frustrating heel pain condition can easily become chronic and start to really limit your quality of life. Fortunately, conservative treatments are almost always highly effective. And the earlier you seek help, the better.
What Is Plantar Fasciitis?
All the way across the bottom of your foot, from the base of the toes to the front of the heel, stretches a band of tough-yet-flexible connective tissue known as the plantar fascia. This tissue acts like a bowstring (or shock absorber), supporting your arch and flexing gently to both cushion your steps and “spring” you forward when you push off the ground.
Unfortunately, that band of tissue may, for one reason or another, become overstretched and strained through constant wear and tear. When that happens, tiny fibers begin to fray and tear, causing pain and swelling.
What Are the Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis?
Pain from plantar fasciitis is usually strongest right where the plantar fascia attaches to the calcaneus, underneath the heel toward the inside of the foot.
Perhaps the most distinctive feature of plantar fasciitis is pain when standing, right after getting out of bed or getting up from a seated position. This is because the inflamed tissue contracts when at rest, and bearing weight again aggravates it. After a few steps, the pain may start to lessen.
That said, it’s important to understand that the symptoms of plantar fasciitis may be difficult to distinguish from other possible causes of heel pain, including heel spurs, pinched nerves, and more. We’ll always perform a thorough physical examination to make the correct diagnosis.
What Causes Plantar Fasciitis?
There are a wide variety of potential causes and contributing factors that could be lurking behind a case of plantar fasciitis. At our initial appointment, we’ll start to nail down the specific causes of your case in order to develop the best possible treatment plan.
Some of the most common causes include:
- Physical activities. People who run, play sports, or work physically demanding jobs are more likely to overuse and overstretch the plantar fascia.
- Foot structure and biomechanics. Due to either genetics or just chronic wear and tear, your foot structure may predispose you toward developing heel pain. For example, if you have flat arches, your feet can’t distribute weight as effectively, and the plantar fascia is likely to face higher-than-normal force loads.
- Obesity. Simply put, the heavier you are, the more strain on your feet.
- Footwear. Frequently wearing unsupportive footwear, such as worn out athletic shoes or ballet flats, can increase your risk for developing plantar fasciitis.
How Is Plantar Fasciitis Treated?
As we said above, the best treatment protocol for you personally will depend on which contributing factors were the most responsible for your plantar fasciitis. The severity of your symptoms also plays a role.
If your plantar fasciitis is still relatively mild, you may be able to recover using very basic home remedies such as rest, icing, stretching, and taking over-the-counter medications as directed if necessary. However, this can sometimes take a long time and may not be sufficient in your case, so it’s always wise to get a full checkup first.
Some of the more traditional professional remedies available include:
- Stronger medications to relieve pain, including injections of cortisone
- Physical therapy
- Wearing a splint at night to keep the plantar facia, arch, and calf stretched while you sleep
- Wearing better shoes
- Lifestyle adjustments (lose weight, alter your training routine, take more breaks at work, etc.)
- Arch supports or custom orthotics to cushion your heels, support your feet, and address biomechanical issues causing your heel pain.
In addition to these treatments, our office also provides more advanced non-surgical care options within the field of regenerative medicine, including SoftWave acoustic wave therapy and MLS laser therapy.
These are exciting, breakthrough treatment options that are among the most advanced, effective, affordable and safe way to deal with painful musculoskeletal conditions like plantar fasciitis. In either case, just a few sessions can trigger an accelerated healing response and substantial pain reduction.
With these regenerative treatments, surgery for plantar fasciitis is almost never necessary. That said, the most extreme cases may still require a partial release of the plantar fascia via a minor surgical procedure. But we’ll only recommend this if all other treatment options have been exhausted without producing success.
Plantar fasciitis can linger for months or years if not addressed, so if heel pain is affecting your quality of life, get the help you need now. You can reach our Carmel Foot Specialists office to schedule an appointment at either of our two locations:
- Myers Park: (704) 334-8682
- South Charlotte: (704) 542-8253